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Book of Mormon only spiritual


tld

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A possibly important insight regarding the Book of Mormon (BoM) can be found in Moses 3:5, where it states that God created all of the children of men spiritually before they were created physically. This seems to imply a historical spiritual world similar to our historical physical world. If such is the case, we can see how God (and possibly others) would

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Thus attempts to correlate Olmec and pre-classical Mayan history with BoM history may forever prove futile, since one had a physical realization while the other did not.

It seems that the entire argument is intended to be supported by the idea that historical correlations between Mesoamerican cultures and the Book of Mormon have been futile. The problem is that correlations have not been futile, so I am not sure why the rest of your hypothesis is required.
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It seems that the entire argument is intended to be supported by the idea that historical correlations between Mesoamerican cultures and the Book of Mormon have been futile. The problem is that correlations have not been futile, so I am not sure why the rest of your hypothesis is required.

Technically you are correct. I probably should have said, "attempts to identify one with the other." We would expect there to be some correlations since they both arose out of the same spiritual world, but, from my position as a layman, I find it difficult to correlate the known timelines and events of the two.

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Kevin Christensen, in his review of Melodie Charle's essay in *The Word of God: Essays on Mormon Scripture* (Signature, 1990) wrote the following:

In his forthcoming Joseph Smith and the Ancient World, John Tvedtnes writes that:

The concept of a spiritual creation that preceded the physical creation of the earth is confirmed in one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, 4QTanhumin (4Q176), which says, "Because he created every [spirit] of the eternal generations, [and with] his commandment [he established] all the paths. The earth he created [with his rig]ht (hand) before it existed."38

38. Tvedtnes, personal correspondence, 10 June 2002.

FWIW,

Robert B.

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, from my position as a layman, I find it difficult to correlate the known timelines and events of the two.

Interesting. However, from my position as one with a Master's in Mesoamerican ethnohistory and a few secular publications in the field, I find that even more than the timelines, the overall cultural pressures are remarkably in step and well-reflected in the Book of Mormon. In fact, I find that the text reads more completely against that background than against the history-less backdrop against which most read it.

I wonder why we have such a different experience?

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There are several reasons why I suggested in my OP a strictly spiritual source for the events described in the BoM. Assuming one of the Limited Geography Models, these reasons center around the disconnect I feel when I attempt to reconcile BoM archeology with Olmec and Mayan archeology. From my limited perspective, one seems to overlay the other. For example, it has been suggested that the Jaredites existed at the same time and place as the Olmec civilization (some suggest that Jaredites = Olmec), but while the Jaredites were destroyed in approx. 600 BCE, the Olmec continued to live in the same area until approx. 400 BCE, when for some reason at least some of the Olmec migrated elsewhere.

The same holds true for the Nephites/Lamanites and the Mayans. Many Mayan cities are suggested to have been BoM cities. If we take the period of time described in 3rd and 4th Nephi, involving the cataclysmic event associated with the death of Jesus and then the following several hundred years of peace, there appears to be no similar Mayan account for this time and place. There was a documented volcanic eruption in 60 BCE, but this was much further north, involving the city of Cuicuilco and the volcano Xitli. Furthermore, there are well-dated lists of rulers from this time period for Mayan cities such as Tikal, which has also been listed as a BoM city, and is close to El Mirador, which has been suggested to have been the city of Bountiful. There is no indication, that I know of, of two hundred years of peace and tranquility amongst the Mayans that is in any way similar to that described in the BoM.

I find it difficult to believe that the people of the BoM occupied the same time and place with the Olmec and Mayan people. We know that the Olmec and Mayan people had a physical existence. I can only conclude, until I am shown otherwise, that the existence of the people of the BoM was spiritual.

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Interesting. However, from my position as one with a Master's in Mesoamerican ethnohistory and a few secular publications in the field, I find that even more than the timelines, the overall cultural pressures are remarkably in step and well-reflected in the Book of Mormon. In fact, I find that the text reads more completely against that background than against the history-less backdrop against which most read it.

I wonder why we have such a different experience?

I wrote my previous post before I read your post. I understand and respect your position and experience. As I mentioned in my OP, it may be very difficult to distinguish the events of a spiritual creation from a physical creation. There are no reasons, that I know of, why there would not be cultural similarities between the people of the BoM and the Olmec and Mayan people, since both, in my view, had a spiritual existence prior to the Olmec and Mayans having a physical existence.

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There are several reasons why I suggested in my OP a strictly spiritual source for the events described in the BoM. Assuming one of the Limited Geography Models, these reasons center around the disconnect I feel when I attempt to reconcile BoM archeology with Olmec and Mayan archeology. From my limited perspective, one seems to overlay the other. For example, it has been suggested that the Jaredites existed at the same time and place as the Olmec civilization (some suggest that Jaredites = Olmec), but while the Jaredites were destroyed in approx. 600 BCE, the Olmec continued to live in the same area until approx. 400 BCE, when for some reason at least some of the Olmec migrated elsewhere.

Knowing what you are looking at makes it easier to talk about. I would suggest that your current approach to correlating the Book of Mormon with Mesoamerica has two problems. One is the inheritance of the "pristine world" concept of the immigration of Book of Mormon peoples. If we suppose that there was no one else in the New World when Book of Mormon peoples arrived, then there are obvious problems with chronologies that demonstrate that there were lots of people here when they arrive. That is not a conflict between the text and archaeology, but rather of the interpretation of the text and archaeology.

The second is a similar misprision of the way to understand the correlations. There are a number of LDS writers who have virtually (and some explicitly) equated the Book of Mormon peoples with the Olmec and the Maya. That is wrong for a whole host of reasons, not the least of which is that the very labels "Maya" and "Olmec" are gross over-generalizations that give the impression of singular cultures and people when that was not the case.

I encourage people to understand that Book of Mormon peoples participated in the cultural trends that we define as Maya and Olmec. That tells us that if they were in the same region as those peoples, we should see elements of those gross cultural trends in the Book of Mormon. However, equating the Nephites with the Maya is certainly incorrect even when aspects of Maya culture explain actions in the Book of Mormon in ways that remain inexplicable without that background.

If we take the period of time described in 3rd and 4th Nephi, involving the cataclysmic event associated with the death of Jesus and then the following several hundred years of peace, there appears to be no similar Mayan account for this time and place.

That is hardly suprising since I am aware of only one inscription from about this time and it is farther south that the Nephite Bountiful would have been and is currently mostly unread. However, the textual descriptions of the cataclysm do correspond with an explosive volcanic event in non-random ways.

There was a documented volcanic eruption in 60 BCE, but this was much further north, involving the city of Cuicuilco and the volcano Xitli.

Dating these things is not always precise, but I agree that Xitli is too far north to have directly caused some of the descriptions in the text. However, I also note that the nature of the text indicates that its descriptions were written well after the fact, so this may not be a single event, nor a specifically localized one. This are area is in the ring of fire with large numbers of active volcanoes. I haven't found a specific record of an eruption at that time period, but that is not terribly surprising in an are where so much is still undiscovered.

Furthermore, there are well-dated lists of rulers from this time period for Mayan cities such as Tikal, which has also been listed as a BoM city

That is another problem we have with the various Mesoamerican correlations. I can't place Tikal in the Nephite sphere at all and personally I see events there (such as the Teotihuacano entrada) as an important precursor to the Nephite destruction. While you are looking at Mesoamerian correlations, I suggest you start with Sorenson or Poulsen and not follow the other authors until their correlations have more evidence behind them.

There is no indication, that I know of, of two hundred years of peace and tranquility amongst the Mayans that is in any way similar to that described in the BoM.

Actually, there is some evidence, particularly in the Grijalva river basin (as I recall) of an interregnum. This is better attested than you think (though also defined and described differently from what I suspect you were expecting).

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There are several reasons why I suggested in my OP a strictly spiritual source for the events described in the BoM. Assuming one of the Limited Geography Models, these reasons center around the disconnect I feel when I attempt to reconcile BoM archeology with Olmec and Mayan archeology. From my limited perspective, one seems to overlay the other. For example, it has been suggested that the Jaredites existed at the same time and place as the Olmec civilization (some suggest that Jaredites = Olmec), but while the Jaredites were destroyed in approx. 600 BCE, the Olmec continued to live in the same area until approx. 400 BCE, when for some reason at least some of the Olmec migrated elsewhere.

Where did you get the date of 600BCE?

There has been discussion on the dating of the Jaredite destruction, and there is some evidence in the BOM for a later date (possibly as late as 200BCE).

Omni 1 [21] And they gave an account of one Coriantumr, and the slain of his people. And Coriantumr was discovered by the people of Zarahemla; and he dwelt with them for the space of nine moons.

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Knowing what you are looking at makes it easier to talk about. I would suggest that your current approach to correlating the Book of Mormon with Mesoamerica has two problems. One is the inheritance of the "pristine world" concept of the immigration of Book of Mormon peoples. If we suppose that there was no one else in the New World when Book of Mormon peoples arrived, then there are obvious problems with chronologies that demonstrate that there were lots of people here when they arrive. That is not a conflict between the text and archaeology, but rather of the interpretation of the text and archaeology.

Forgive me, but sometimes I think this is a cop-out. The eventual population size described in the BoM was not insignificant when compared with others who may have already inhabited the same area. However, you can answer this better than me. What is the estimated maximum population of the BoM and what is the estimated maximum population of the Maya during the same time period?

The second is a similar misprision of the way to understand the correlations. There are a number of LDS writers who have virtually (and some explicitly) equated the Book of Mormon peoples with the Olmec and the Maya. That is wrong for a whole host of reasons, not the least of which is that the very labels "Maya" and "Olmec" are gross over-generalizations that give the impression of singular cultures and people when that was not the case.

I appreciate your caution in this regard. Would that this were true of everyone.

I encourage people to understand that Book of Mormon peoples participated in the cultural trends that we define as Maya and Olmec. That tells us that if they were in the same region as those peoples, we should see elements of those gross cultural trends in the Book of Mormon. However, equating the Nephites with the Maya is certainly incorrect even when aspects of Maya culture explain actions in the Book of Mormon in ways that remain inexplicable without that background.

This is one way of looking at it. Another is that they had a common heritage in the spirit world. Since the BoM came from the spirit world, and cannot be connected to any known physical text, it could very well be the latter.

That is hardly suprising since I am aware of only one inscription from about this time and it is farther south that the Nephite Bountiful would have been and is currently mostly unread. However, the textual descriptions of the cataclysm do correspond with an explosive volcanic event in non-random ways.

Dating these things is not always precise, but I agree that Xitli is too far north to have directly caused some of the descriptions in the text. However, I also note that the nature of the text indicates that its descriptions were written well after the fact, so this may not be a single event, nor a specifically localized one. This are area is in the ring of fire with large numbers of active volcanoes. I haven't found a specific record of an eruption at that time period, but that is not terribly surprising in an are where so much is still undiscovered.

Or the description in the BoM could be very precise but limited to a spiritual existence.

That is another problem we have with the various Mesoamerican correlations. I can't place Tikal in the Nephite sphere at all and personally I see events there (such as the Teotihuacano entrada) as an important precursor to the Nephite destruction. While you are looking at Mesoamerian correlations, I suggest you start with Sorenson or Poulsen and not follow the other authors until their correlations have more evidence behind them.

I'm curious. Where do you place the BoM? Something is known about the archeology of the Olmec and Maya and the location of some of their cities. Is there any archeology that can definitely be associated with the BoM and can any BoM cities be definitely located? Were the people of the BoM integrated among the the indigenous population or did they exist separately?

Actually, there is some evidence, particularly in the Grijalva river basin (as I recall) of an interregnum. This is better attested than you think (though also defined and described differently from what I suspect you were expecting).

This I would be interested in knowing about.

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Where did you get the date of 600BCE?

There has been discussion on the dating of the Jaredite destruction, and there is some evidence in the BOM for a later date (possibly as late as 200BCE).

Omni 1 [21] And they gave an account of one Coriantumr, and the slain of his people. And Coriantumr was discovered by the people of Zarahemla; and he dwelt with them for the space of nine moons.

Good question. I read it somewhere, but in looking further, I see your point. Here is one link in support of approx. 600 BC.

Regardless of the date, there is no evidence, that I know of, that the Olmec were completely destroyed.

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Forgive me, but sometimes I think this is a cop-out. The eventual population size described in the BoM was not insignificant when compared with others who may have already inhabited the same area. However, you can answer this better than me. What is the estimated maximum population of the BoM and what is the estimated maximum population of the Maya during the same time period?

From my perspective I view the populations of the Book of Mormon to be somewhat transitionary and unclear. I do not see the populations as significant. But then the population of the early Hebrews who made their way into Canaan was also relatively insignificant.

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This is one way of looking at it. Another is that they had a common heritage in the spirit world. Since the BoM came from the spirit world, and cannot be connected to any known physical text, it could very well be the latter.

I find this to be somewhat fallacious. The Book of Mormon cannot be tied to a physical text, and yet we know that many "physical texts" were destroyed and we are not sure what or how the Book of Mormon peoples were referred to in other cultures. They might be referred to, may even have been mentioned, but cannot be sure of that.

How many known physical texts of the various tribes and nations in the Americas have survived?

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I'm curious. Where do you place the BoM? Something is known about the archeology of the Olmec and Maya and the location of some of their cities. Is there any archeology that can definitely be associated with the BoM and can any BoM cities be definitely located? Were the people of the BoM integrated among the the indigenous population or did they exist separately?

How would one find Jerusalem of the Bible, using the Bible alone, if the Bible were found in say London or Paris? Presuming the tribes of Israel were killed or integrated into other populations, how would we know where to find Jerusalem? Would you just as quickly conclude that the Old Testament itself was merely a "spiritual manifestation"?

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From my perspective I view the populations of the Book of Mormon to be somewhat transitionary and unclear. I do not see the populations as significant. But then the population of the early Hebrews who made their way into Canaan was also relatively insignificant.

During the last battle between the Nephites and Lamanites, 220,000 Nephite warriors were killed. There were perhaps twice as many Lamanites. Add to this the women and children and you have well over a million people. This does not seem insignificant to me. How did they manage to occupy the same space and time with the indigenous population without there being any record of their existence?

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I find this to be somewhat fallacious. The Book of Mormon cannot be tied to a physical text, and yet we know that many "physical texts" were destroyed and we are not sure what or how the Book of Mormon peoples were referred to in other cultures. They might be referred to, may even have been mentioned, but cannot be sure of that.

How many known physical texts of the various tribes and nations in the Americas have survived?

What I was trying to say is that the Book of Mormon was received by revelation from the spirit world. If everything is created spiritually before it is created physically, then the Book of Mormon could be an account of the spiritual creation. Given the lack of evidence, it seems questionable that a physical creation ever occurred (i.e. the people of the BoM may have existed spiritually but not physically). Thus there was no need for a physical text.

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During the last battle between the Nephites and Lamanites, 220,000 Nephite warriors were killed. There were perhaps twice as many Lamanites. Add to this the women and children and you have well over a million people. This does not seem insignificant to me. How did they manage to occupy the same space and time with the indigenous population without there being any record of their existence?

There are challenges regarding total populace in the new world. If the population was significantly larger than previously assumed (among them the book 1941), if that is accurate, then the population impact is reduced significantly.

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What I was trying to say is that the Book of Mormon was received by revelation from the spirit world. If everything is created spiritually before it is created physically, then the Book of Mormon could be an account of the spiritual creation. Given the lack of evidence, it seems questionable that a physical creation ever occurred (i.e. the people of the BoM may have existed spiritually but not physically). Thus there was no need for a physical text.

I see neither an explanation nor plausible misinterpretation along those lines.

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During the last battle between the Nephites and Lamanites, 220,000 Nephite warriors were killed.

Not so fast, there, pardner.

The text says there were twenty-three commanders who perished with their units (Mormon, Moroni, Gidgiddonah, Lamah, Gilgal, Limhah, Jeneum, Cumenihah, Moronihah, Antionum, Shiblom, Shem, and Josh, along with ten others whose names Mormon did not record; see Mormon 6:11~15).

It is an ancient tradition to call a military unit by the number of men who'd fill it under perfect conditions. A Romans Century was not a hundred years, it was a military unit that, nominally, included 100 men. A Decurion was the leader of ten men, when they were all there.

The number of effective soldiers was often (read "usually") much less. For example, in Vietnam, my first platoon sergeant was the leader of a platoon that consisted of three men, including himself, during one notable firefight. That was less than one-tenth its full complement.

What the text says is "... <so-and-so> with his ten thousand ...". "Ten thousand" may or may not be a "number". If the annihilated unit had five men in it, the Decurion would be said to have "fallen with his Decade"; or in the case of a 23-man unit, the "Centurion has fallen with his Century".

Furthermore, it was not a given that all of the soldiers were men. The children and women were armed at several points in the Book of Mormon, so why not here? This was a fight to the death of their civilization; I suspect the women were just as anxious as the men to defend what was left of it, or perish trying.

There were perhaps twice as many Lamanites. Add to this the women and children and you have well over a million people. This does not seem insignificant to me. How did they manage to occupy the same space and time with the indigenous population without there being any record of their existence?

You're assuming they were separate populations, and that they (the Lamanites) called themselves "Lamanites". I doubt that.

During the entire history of the Lehites the Nephites divided the whole region into the Nephites and the Lamanites. The Nephites were, well, the Nephites, but the Lamanites were the enemy, whoever it was.

Finally, it's a mistake to assume there were no records. The problem is that the vast majority of the records the Spanish found were destroyed,

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What I was trying to say is that the Book of Mormon was received by revelation from the spirit world.

Interesting premise.

Given the lack of evidence, it seems questionable that a physical creation ever occurred (i.e. the people of the BoM may have existed spiritually but not physically). Thus there was no need for a physical text.

Yet...there is physical evidence. (Would be a thread derail...so I won't go into that here.)

Additionally, the implications of the Nephite text is that the Nephites had physical bodies - one of the things we all reportedly came here to obtain. Ad the reuniting of the spirit w/the body is explicitly spelled out in Nephite texts.

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Not so fast, there, pardner.

The text says there were twenty-three commanders who perished with their units (Mormon, Moroni, Gidgiddonah, Lamah, Gilgal, Limhah, Jeneum, Cumenihah, Moronihah, Antionum, Shiblom, Shem, and Josh, along with ten others whose names Mormon did not record; see Mormon 6:11~15).

It is an ancient tradition to call a military unit by the number of men who'd fill it under perfect conditions. A Romans Century was not a hundred years, it was a military unit that, nominally, included 100 men. A Decurion was the leader of ten men, when they were all there.

The number of effective soldiers was often (read "usually") much less. For example, in Vietnam, my first platoon sergeant was the leader of a platoon that consisted of three men, including himself, during one notable firefight. That was less than one-tenth its full complement.

What the text says is "... <so-and-so> with his ten thousand ...". "Ten thousand" may or may not be a "number". If the annihilated unit had five men in it, the Decurion would be said to have "fallen with his Decade"; or in the case of a 23-man unit, the "Centurion has fallen with his Century".

Furthermore, it was not a given that all of the soldiers were men. The children and women were armed at several points in the Book of Mormon, so why not here? This was a fight to the death of their civilization; I suspect the women were just as anxious as the men to defend what was left of it, or perish trying.

You're assuming they were separate populations, and that they (the Lamanites) called themselves "Lamanites". I doubt that.

During the entire history of the Lehites the Nephites divided the whole region into the Nephites and the Lamanites. The Nephites were, well, the Nephites, but the Lamanites were the enemy, whoever it was.

Finally, it's a mistake to assume there were no records. The problem is that the vast majority of the records the Spanish found were destroyed,

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Additionally, the implications of the Nephite text is that the Nephites had physical bodies - one of the things we all reportedly came here to obtain. Ad the reuniting of the spirit w/the body is explicitly spelled out in Nephite texts.

Good point. I don't know that I have a satisfactory answer, but as I consider one I am faced with the dilemma of just what it means to create everything spiritually before it is created physically. Specifically with regard to the people of the BoM, did God (whom we assume did the creating) create Laman and Lemuel to perform the roles of villains while Nephi was given the role of hero? Or did their roles evolve, as well as all of the other events of the BoM, during the creative process? In any case, by the time that all of the people of the BoM had been created spiritually, we assume that God knew what would transpire during the physical creation, should it occur. Now, in my mind, it gets increasingly complicated. Is the spiritual creation analogous to the writing of a play and the physical creation analogous to the acting of the play? If so, souls must be selected to play the various characters in the play. This makes sense if we believe that the angel Michael played the role of Adam.

To get back to your point, my suggestion is that the play was written but never performed. The text of the play was delivered to Joseph Smith by revelation. It would be essentially the same as if the play had been acted out in the physical world and someone had written a text of the performance. The play assumes that the characters will have physical bodies, but this does not necessarily mean that the characters in the play were ever actually embodied.

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To get back to your point, my suggestion is that the play was written but never performed. The text of the play was delivered to Joseph Smith by revelation. It would be essentially the same as if the play had been acted out in the physical world and someone had written a text of the performance. The play assumes that the characters will have physical bodies, but this does not necessarily mean that the characters in the play were ever actually embodied.

Although an interesting idea, it has virtually no support scripturally. The only accounts of spiritual creations that never received bodies are those of the rebellious ones that did not keep their first estate. All others will eventually be embodied.

The idea also flies against the information that Paul gives us in 1 Corinthians 14: 33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints."

I also think that John 14:2 is pertinent.

"2 In my Father

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Although an interesting idea, it has virtually no support scripturally. The only accounts of spiritual creations that never received bodies are those of the rebellious ones that did not keep their first estate. All others will eventually be embodied.

The idea also flies against the information that Paul gives us in 1 Corinthians 14: 33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints."

I also think that John 14:2 is pertinent.

"2 In my Father

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